Bread for tea sandwiches should be thin-cut and firm-textured, crusts trimmed. White sandwich loaf (called pan de mie in French) is the traditional choice and is in many ways the best. Bakers sometimes bake pan de mies in special molds that form them into triangles, rounds or other shapes. Similar results can be had using cookie cutters. Pepperidge Farm Classic White and Wheat Sandwich loaves which come in regular (which is relatively thin) and very thin are good, widely available pan de mies. Other good choices are challah, brioche and the thinly sliced light and dark pumpernickels found in grocery deli sections. Rustic breads with large air pockets do not work well.
Fillings for tea sandwiches should be finely chopped, especially if they are to be used between two slices of bread. The filling should be moist but not runny, so that it won’t seep out of the edges. Use just enough of the binding agent – mayonnaise and cream cheese are the most common – to hold the filling ingredients together.
SOME IDEAS FOR GARNISHES:
- Spread sandwich edges (not open-faced) VERY THINLY with mayonnaise or softened butter, then dip gently into minced parsley or finely chopped nuts such as toasted almonds or pistachios
- Make a small cutout in the top piece of bread with a miniature garnish cutter.
- Use edible unsprayed flowers such as violets, violas, single pansy petals, or herb blossoms such as borage, chive blossoms, scented geranium blooms on open-faced sandwiches.
- Use herbs to garnish, but make sure that they do not overwhelm the flavor of the fillings. Strong-flavored herbs such as rosemary are too intense.
- Make a cut in the top piece of bread with a knife tip and insert a sprig of fresh herb, or an edible flower.
- Top a cheese or chicken salad, etc. open-faced sandwich with a seedless grape half.
- Garnish open-faced sandwiches with a larger piece of the filling ingredient such as a half shrimp for shrimp salad or potted shrimp, or a slice of stuffed olive.